For me, Black History Month is a time to wonder what previous generations of Black activists like Martin Luther King Jr., Viola Desmond, Nelson Mandela, and many others would say if they could see the world today. Black people across the globe continue to endure the struggles and challenges caused by colonization and systemic racism. The continued unlawful killings of Black people, and the inadequate efforts made by our government to address systemic racism and oppression in Canada suggest that we are still struggling to realize Martin Luther King’s dream.
There are many who continue the struggle without name recognition. And so Black History Month is also a time to honour and reflect on the influences and work from this generation of Black civil rights activists and allies who fight tirelessly for a world where Blackness will not be seen as a threat, but rather as a beautiful part of the complex and diverse ecosystem of humanity.
There are other communities within this ecosystem to consider. Black History Month is a reminder of the struggles and challenges other equity-seeking people have endured and continue to face. I acknowledge and applaud the efforts of all the activists around the world who fight against racism, discrimination and oppression in all its forms.
Black History Month reinforces the need to teach and educate all generations, young and old. About racism, yes. That race is a social construct that has been and continues to be used to privilege some at the expense of others. That it is a daily reality that causes mental and physical harm, and deprives many talented and good people of the opportunity to flourish and contribute fully to a better world.
But also about “Ubuntu” – an idea rooted in southern African humanist philosophy. It is a belief that humanity is dependent on our universal bond and interconnection. That through openness and kindness, we can stand together as one.
I applaud the triumph, resilience, and strong Black spirit of those who do not give up the fight. Now is the time for us to stand tall and unify efforts to fight anti-Black racism in our interactions with each other and the families we serve. To fight for true justice, equity, inclusion and an end to racial discrimination in our communities. To manifest King’s words in every aspect of our lives: that “children will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
In honour of Black History Month, let’s challenge ourselves to expand our knowledge, leave our comfort zones, and most importantly, take action. Here are a few resources to help with that.
This CBC article examines the efforts of some Black parents and educators to address racial barriers within the Canadian education system. The hope is to begin dismantling the multi-layered obstacles that Black children and teens face in school each day.Read Article
Did you know that “Black Canadians make up 3% of Canada’s population, yet account for a disproportionate percentage of the homeless population”? Or that “Black individuals account for between 11-15% of the inmate population in Canadian prisons”? This article by Homeless Hub presents the stark reality of inequitable housing for Black Canadians.Read Article
Black Health Education Collaborative (BHEC): Action Against Anti-Black Racism in Canadian Healthcare
BHEC is led by a team of prominent Canadian Black healthcare researchers and scholars, committed to improving the care and wellbeing of Black communities across Canada. The mission is to educate, inform, and address the issues surrounding disproportionately affected Black Canadians within the healthcare system.Read Article
This is one of many resources American racial justice educator and writer Debi Irving offers on her website: from thought-provoking articles that prompt uncomfortable questions, to discussions on the consequences of white supremacy, to public radio shows offering current stories within Black communities. Her 21-Day Racial Equity Habit Building Challenge invites people to choose one activity per day to further their understanding of power, privilege, supremacy, oppression, and equity.Read Article
Stories of brutal, sometimes lethal encounters Black and Indigenous people have had with police have laid bare the realities of systemic racism. Bookmark this list of anti-racism organizations that support Black and Indigenious Canadians through mental health services, legal aid, youth empowerment and more.Read Article
A short video clip that revisits panel discussions on anti-Black racism, notably how to approach it, and how to be an ally. The subject matter is presented by experts addressing the historical Black experience in Canada, as well as current experiences within the federal public service.
In this clip from Global News’ series Living in Colour, host Farah Nasser speaks with York University associate professor of Black Studies of the Americas, Andrea A. Davis, on why it’s important to understand the history of anti-Black racism in Canada and how diminishing discrimination faced by Black communities is harmful.
“Canada has been really good at convincing itself and the rest of the world that the terrible things that have come out of colonization did not happen here.” This CBC News piece probes many difficult, unanswered questions about “what else” we need to acknowledge and deal with when it comes to Black history and Canada’s colonial roots.
Are you a non-racist, or an anti-racist? According to Marlon James, “most of us….are non-racist.” While it leaves us with a clear conscience, Marlon argues, “it does nothing to help fight injustice in the world.” Take the challenge, and ask yourself the hard questions. Together, let’s work toward a truly inclusive society that provides equal rights and opportunities for all.